Document Type



Medicine and Health Sciences


Non-coding regulatory elements can transduce the human genome's response to environmental stimuli. Thus, there is a possibility that variation in non-coding regulatory elements may underlie some of the diversity in human behavior. However, this idea has remained largely untested due to the difficulty in accurately identifying regulatory elements in the 98% of the human genome that does not encode protein. The recent recognition that small trans-acting RNAs anneal to mRNA and regulate gene expression provides a means to identify and test such variants. Here we show that microRNA-directed silencing of mRNA can be attenuated by a common human polymorphism. We have identified an element (A-element) within serotonin receptor 1B (HTR1B) mRNA that confers repression by miR-96. The repressive activity of this element is attenuated by a common human variant (G-element) that disrupts a nucleotide critical for its interaction with miR-96. Because deletion of the HTR1B gene leads to an aggressive phenotype in mice, we hypothesized an association between the A/G polymorphism and aggressive phenotypes in a sample of 359 college students. As predicted, individuals homozygous for the ancestral A-element reported more conduct-disorder behaviors than individuals with the G-element. Our studies suggest that such functional variants may be common and may help to refine the search for genes involved in complex behavioral disorders.


Mol Psychiatry. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 August 26. Published in final edited form as: Mol Psychiatry. 2009 April; 14(4): 381–389. Published online 2008 February 19. doi: 10.1038/mp.2008.15 PMCID: PMC3162374 NIHMSID: NIHMS318533